Pupil-less school kept open at cost of £110,000

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The Independent Online

A primary school is being kept open at a cost of up to £110,000 despite not having any pupils.

The local council cannot close Ysgol Capel Iwan until it has finished a statutory consultation process, even though the classrooms are empty.

The headteacher will be at the school near Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire, at the start of term next month in case any children turn up.

Carmarthenshire County Council said a budget of £110,000 had been set aside in accordance with funding regulations, assuming the school stays open until the end of next March.

Its governing body will remain in place until the school is formally closed.

Winding up the school could take more than a year if there are objections, in which case the plans will be referred to Wales's Education Minister Leighton Andrews.

The council said it legally had to keep the school open until the minister had approved its closure, even if there were no children attending.

Mr Andrews has complained that decisions on school shake-ups take too long, causing uncertainty for parents.

Capel Iwan's headteacher will be employed until the end of December and will be found work by the council in another capacity in the meantime.

In a statement it said: "Whilst it is currently assumed that there will be no pupils at the school in September, it is likely that a substantial percentage of the delegated budget will still have to be spent on maintaining the school as it will require the head to be in place and most of the premises and other costs will continue until the end of the financial year."

Mr Andrews today published proposals to cut the time available for submitting objections to school closures from two months to one month, and to cut the time councils have to submit objections for ministerial approval from a month to two weeks.

He said: "These changes have been put forward in order to speed up the overall decision making process, when changes to schools are proposed.

"The current system adds to uncertainty for parents and pupils.

"Parents and local authorities tell me that they want more certainty, at an earlier stage, in order to plan for the future of pupils.

"I believe that the time frames for objections and the submission of objections could be reduced, saving potentially six weeks on the statutory process.

"This consultation will ensure that all those with an interest, including local authorities and parents, will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed changes.

"I would hope that revised regulations will be in force by early 2011."